, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 351-362
Date: 27 Sep 2007

Finding the right home: distribution of food resources and terrain characteristics influence selection of denning sites and reproductive dens in arctic foxes

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Abstract

We examined 83 arctic fox (Alopex lagopus) dens on Bylot Island (Canada) during the summers of 2003–2005, to determine how arctic foxes select a denning site among potential sites, and a breeding den among existing dens. We compared denning sites to random locations in a 425 km2 study area (landscape scale) and to other potential denning sites in a 100 m radius (local scale). Dens were located on mounds or in slopes and were closer to streams than expected. Sites with low snow cover in spring, high ground temperature, high depth to permafrost, and steep and southerly exposed slopes were preferred. Of the 83 dens, 27 were used at least once for reproduction from 2003 to 2005. We show with a resource selection function analysis that an attractive force (distribution of food resources) and an apparently repulsive one (presence of other dens in the vicinity) affected selection of dens for reproduction. We generate testable hypotheses regarding the influence of food and social factors on the denning ecology of arctic foxes.